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Tottenham Hotspur hit by backlash after ‘UK£42.5m’ South Africa tourism sponsorship

Reported three-year partnership criticised as country’s economy slumps.

2 February 2023 Ed Dixon

Getty Images

  • South Africa is considering a state of disaster due to power cuts
  • Deal would see SA Tourism replace Cinch as Spurs’ sleeve sponsor

Tottenham Hotspur are facing a backlash after the English top-flight soccer outfit inked a reported three-year UK£42.5 million (US$52.4 million) sleeve sponsorship deal with the South African government.

The agreement with South Africa’s Ministry of Tourism, which is expected to be signed this week, would be an improvement on the purported UK£10 million (US$12.3 million) per season Spurs pocket from their existing tie-up with online car retailer Cinch.

The new deal also includes promotion on interview backdrops and matchday advertising.

According to Associated Press (AP), the South African government has been looking to conclude a memorandum of understating with the north London club through its tourism marketing arm South Africa (SA) Tourism.

However, the proposed deal has been criticised given the current situation in South Africa. The country’s president Cyril Ramaphosa is considering declaring a state of disaster due to record power cuts that are damaging the economy and exacerbating poverty.

The Times adds that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has downgraded its forecast for South Africa this year, projecting the economy will grow 1.2 per cent this year, which is less than half the level of 2022, due to the blackouts.

The value of the deal has also been lambasted by South African opposition party ActionSA, which said the money represented nearly 40 per cent of SA Tourism’s budget and questioned the merits of the arrangement.

It “arguably has more to do with the benefit officials and politicians will derive from the agreement, including gaining access to stadium hospitality and tickets at Tottenham Hotspur games in London,” ActionSA said.

A presentation by SA Tourism, as reported by The Times, said the link-up with Spurs was vital “to break through the noise and reclaim our position in the global travel community”.

SportsPro says…

Tourism partnerships are not uncommon in the Premier League. Spurs’ archrivals Arsenal, for example, have a sleeve deal with Visit Rwanda. However, agreements of that ilk, particularly in developing or less affluent countries, pose various moral questions.

SA Tourism is set to part with millions of pounds at a time when South Africa’s economy is being crippled and poverty is on the rise. As for Visit Rwanda, the budget for its Arsenal contract is reportedly almost entirely reliant on overseas aid.

Premier League club partners can use the top flight’s global appeal to change people’s perceptions of their organisation or, in this case, country. Spurs, though, appear to have joined a long line of soccer teams failing to grasp the wider issues at play when striking commercial deals.

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